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Overlooked and undervalued: the caring contribution of older people

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Purpose ‐ Older people are often perceived to be a drain on health care resources. This ignores their caring contribution to the health care sector. The purpose of this paper is to address this imbalance and highlight the role of older people as carers. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The study uses a unique data set supplied by a charity. It covers 1,985 caregivers, their characteristics, type and amount of care provided and the characteristics and needs of those cared-for. Binary and ordered logistic regression is used to examine determinates of the supply of care. Fairlie-Oaxaca-Blinder decompositions are used to disentangle the extent to which differences in the supply of care by age are due to observable endowment effects or coefficient effects. Nationally representative British Household Panel Survey data provide contextualization. Findings ‐ Older caregivers are more intensive carers, caring for longer hours, providing more co-residential and personal care. They are therefore more likely to be in greater need of assistance. The decompositions show that their more intensive caring contribution is partly explained by the largely exogenous characteristics and needs of the people they care for. Research limitations/implications ‐ The data are regional and constrained by the supplier's design. Social implications ‐ Older carers make a significant contribution to health care provision. Their allocation of time to caregiving is not a free choice, it is constrained by the needs of those cared-for. Originality/value ‐ If the burden of care and caring contribution are measured by hours supplied and provision of intimate personal care, then a case is made that older carers experience the greatest burden and contribute the most to the community.
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Keywords: Ageing; Carers; Healthcare

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 6, 2014

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